Two days before she won the Democratic primary for New Jersey’s 12th District, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) accused her challenger, Lisa McCormick, of “offensive, improper, and potentially illegal campaign tactics” as part of a “conspiracy to deceive the public.”
Despite Watson Coleman’s landslide victory in yesterday’s primary, her campaign does “not intend to walk away from holding [McCormick] accountable,” according to campaign consultant Sean Darcy. It is not clear what specific actions the Watson Coleman campaign plans to take against McCormick.
When asked for comment about the accusations — which Watson Coleman’s lawyers raised in a July 5 letter to McCormick and her campaign manager, James Devine — McCormick said only that she was “confident that my campaign is going to win because the voters see this race as a referendum on the CARES Act.” Coleman voted for the over $2 trillion economic relief package.
The New York Times called the election in favor of Watson Coleman with only 35 percent of votes counted. The most recent update from the Times shows Watson Coleman receiving 90.4 percent of votes, with fewer than half of ballots counted.
When asked for comment on the election results and accusations surrounding her campaign’s tactics on Wednesday, McCormick wrote to the ‘Prince’ that, “the smartest people on the planet have been warning that humanity is on the precipice of self-destruction, so I intend to continue fighting to make the world better by any means necessary.”
“People need to rise up to the responsibility of citizenship and the 2020 primary election results have changed nothing,” McCormick added.
Watson Coleman will face Mark Razzoli — who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination — in November.
NJToday.net — a news outlet that lists McCormick as its sole publisher — published a story early Tuesday morning, prior to any ballots being counted, indicating that “Early returns show[ed] Lisa McCormick leading.” This article has since been updated with the headline “Bonnie Watson Coleman re-elected.”
The updated article still provides a link to bonniewatsoncoleman.org, the website identified by Watson Coleman’s lawyers — which the Watson Coleman campaign claims McCormick owns. The website links to 20 “Neighbor News” posts on the local news website Patch, which echo McCormick’s press releases.
Several of these articles accuse Watson Coleman of having corrupt ties to President Donald Trump, the investment bank Goldman Sachs, and military contractors. Others attempt to associate McCormick with progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). One article includes a photo of McCormick and the Congresswoman, alongside a caption claiming they were “on the campaign trail together.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s press secretary told the ‘Prince’ that “the congresswoman has no affiliation with Lisa McCormick.”
The bonniewatsoncoleman.org domain also sent unsolicited messages to voters from an account titled “BWC Updates.” The ‘Prince’ obtained five emails from the account sent within the past month. One email included the subject line “Don’t buy from Jews” accompanied by an official Watson Coleman campaign logo, while another included a mocked-up “Trump, Pence, Watson Coleman 2020” logo.
The Watson Coleman campaign’s complaints, outlined in the letter to McCormick and Devine, focus on alleged violations of federal and state election law, including a failure to properly identify campaign materials to the public.
“They’ve sent out massive blast emails with no ‘paid for’ that are designed to look like they are from the Bonnie Watson Coleman for Congress campaign,” Darcy, a consultant for the Watson Coleman campaign, said in an interview conducted prior to the election. “Basically, they’re stealing her identity.”
In a previous interview with the ‘Prince,’ conducted before Watson Coleman’s lawyers sent the letter, McCormick’s campaign manager defended the website and emails, though he did not take responsibility for either. There is “nothing wrong with it,” he said, and “there is nothing untrue about any of the statements that were included in any of the emails or websites that bear [Watson Coleman’s] name.”
Devine and McCormick did not comment on the Watson Coleman campaigns’ allegations when contacted several times after the letter was sent.
On Wednesday, July 8, Darcy told the ‘Prince’ that the Watson Coleman campaign is “grateful to have won the Primary Election, especially by such a large margin, but we do not intend to walk away from holding our opponent accountable.”
Darcy referred to bonniewatsoncoleman.org as “dangerous and misleading to voters,” adding that “the prosecution of this fraud is less about us personally and more an attempt to preserve democracy.”
“We have certainly received enough feedback from people outside our campaign who have been similarly impacted and we believe our objections to this type of campaigning should be reviewed to discourage future attempts at fraud by these or other equally nefarious characters,” Darcy added.
Booker defeats Hamm, Freda unopposed in Princeton mayoral race
As of 8:45 p.m. EDT, Politico had called nine of the other 13 contested Congressional primaries within the state, as well as the Democratic primary for Senate — with former Class Day speaker Cory Booker defeating progressive challenger Lawrence Hamm ‘78.
The five-candidate Republican primary to determine Booker’s opponent had not yet been called as of 8:45 p.m., with Hirsh Singh, Rikin Mehta, and Patricia Flanagan receiving 37.2 percent, 37.6 percent, and 17.3 percent of votes, respectively.
Mayoral candidate Mark Freda appeared unopposed on the Princeton ballot, and will likely assume the position in 2021, in the absence of any Republican challengers.
Unofficial results posted on the Mercer County website show incumbents David Cohen and Leticia Fraga leading in the race for Princeton Council. Challenger Dina Shaw, however, is fewer than 650 votes behind Cohen, and results will not become official until all Provisional and Vote By Mail ballots are counted. No Republicans ran for Princeton Council positions.
In her daily COVID-19 Update, Mayor Liz Lempert wrote that “ballots cast during yesterday’s primary election are taking longer to count than normal because of the volume of vote by mail ballots.”
Associate News and Features Editor Marie-Rose Sheinerman contributed reporting to this story.